New tile with smooth, clean grout is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, like everything else grout gets old and when it does it can come loose and start to fall out, leaving unsightly gaps in between your tiles. These gaps are not only unattractive they can also become a safe haven and breeding ground for mold, cause the tiles themselves to become loose and allow water to seep into the substrate compromising the integrity of the wall. In this post, the tile and grout cleaning experts at Steve's Carpet Cleaning provide advice and tips on what to do if the grout between your tiles comes loose and starts to fall out.
What Is Grout?
Grout these days is a mixture of cement, sand and water that is used to fill the gaps between tiles in the bathroom, the kitchen or anywhere they may be. Grout plays a vital role in ensuring tiles stay in place, while also sealing the wall or floor against water intrusion. Grout is applied wet and allowed to dry and set, a process that usually takes 1 - 3 days.
Grout has been around as long as tiles have, which means it's been around for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians didn't have cement to use for grout so they typically used lime and sand mixed with water.
Why Does Grout Come Loose?
There is not one single reason why grout may become loose and begin to fall out. During the performance of our carpet repair and rug cleaning duties, we have seen lots of dry, loose, flaky grout and the reasons for that unhappy state of affairs vary from house to house. Here are some of the most common reasons for loose grout:
If the installer is in a hurry or inexperienced they may neglect to pack the grout tightly and then after only a couple of years it begins to flake away. If the tiles in your home are new and you notice gaps where the grout has fallen out chances are pretty good it wasn't packed tight enough during the tile installation.
An improper mix
Water is an important ingredient in grout and important to the installation process. But if the installer adds too much water to the mix the grout will not withstand the test of time and will begin cracking and falling away.
Most homes settle over time. You just have to hope the settling is not so extreme as to cause cracks in the floors and walls. If it does there's a good chance you'll see cracks forming in the tiles and grout falling out. This is more likely to happen on a tile floor, but it can, and often does, happen on tile walls as well.
New grout installed over old grout
Sometimes while attempting to fill in holes caused by loose grout homeowners and inexperienced repairmen will simply apply new grout directly over the old, compromised grout. That's akin to building a house on a faulty foundation. Of course, in time this faulty application will reveal itself when the new grout starts chipping and falling away.
Improperly sealed grout
Because cement is porous, grout has to be sealed before you can expose it to water. If the sealant was applied after moisture already had a chance to contact the cement it may undermine the integrity of the grout, which will eventually crack and fall away.
Repairing Loose or Missing Grout
Re-grouting is not rocket science but it needs to be done properly or you open yourself up to the various problems listed above. To do the job right you'll need a few basic materials, patience and an attention to detail. Here are the steps needed to re-grout a tile wall or floor.
- Gather the necessary materials - You will need a grout float (used to apply grout in between tiles), a grout or rotary saw, a damp towel, an old toothbrush and the newly mixed grout.
- Remove the old grout - Start by removing any cracked, flakey or otherwise damaged grout from between the tiles. This is where you will use the grout or rotary saw. Use the old toothbrush to brush in between the tiles and make sure there is no loose material left.
- Mix the grout - There will be precise instructions on the package that tells you how to mix the grout properly. Make sure you follow them closely.
- Install the grout - Use the grout float to apply the newly mixed grout to the spaces between the tiles. Make sure to pack the spaces well and work the grout to ensure there are no air bubbles.
- Remove any excess - Use the side of the grout float to remove any grout overflow from the surface of the tiles. Then allow 10 minutes or so for the grout to set up a bit before wiping the tile faces with the damp towel to remove whatever excess grout is left.
When to Call Steve's
If the grout in your bathroom or kitchen is falling out you'll need to address it in a timely fashion. If you don't feel comfortable fixing the grout yourself, call the pros at Steve's. In addition to carpet cleaning, area rug cleaning, upholstery cleaning and more we're also one of the few carpet cleaning companies to offer expert tile and grout services.